Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
When you bring a new baby home, your dog will face an overwhelming number of novel sights, sounds and smells. She may find some of them upsetting, especially if she didn’t have opportunities to spend time with children as a puppy. You’ll drastically alter your daily routine, so your dog’s schedule will change, too. And, out of necessity, she’ll get less of your time and attention. It may be a difficult time for her, especially if she’s been the “only child” for a while.
To make things go as smoothly as possible for everyone, it’s important to take some time to prepare your dog for the arrival of your new addition. In the months before the baby comes, you’ll focus on two things:
- Teaching your dog the skills she’ll need to interact safely with her new family member
- Helping your dog adjust to the many new experiences and changes ahead
Prepare Your Dog for the Baby’s Touch and Movement
When your child is old enough to understand the lesson, you’ll teach him to handle your dog gently. However, not knowing any better, young babies often grab dogs’ fur, ears, tails and anything else within reach. To prepare your dog for this inevitability, accustom her to the types of touching you can expect from your baby, including grabbing, poking, pushing and pulling. If you teach your dog that good things happen when she gets poked and prodded, she’ll be able to better tolerate potentially uncomfortable interactions with the baby.
Poke the Pup
Poke your dog gently and then give her a treat. Gently tug on her ear and then give a treat. Gently grab her skin or pinch her and then give a treat. In a cheery voice, say something like “Oh, what was that?” each time you poke, pull or pinch your dog. Later on, when the baby does these things, you can say the same phrase.
With repetition, your dog will start to anticipate tasty treats and simply look to you each time she gets pinched or grabbed. Practice these handling exercises four to eight times per day, and use especially exciting treats, like cheese, chicken or hot dogs. (Training sessions can be short—about five minutes long). When you start your training, be very gentle. Over time, make your touches more intense, like they will be when the baby delivers them.
Some dogs have never seen a human crawl, so it can be an intimidating experience—especially because crawling puts a person right at their eye level. So it’s a good idea to help your dog get used to crawling before your baby starts to become mobile. Accomplishing this is easy! Crawl toward your dog. As soon as she lifts her head to look at you, pet her and give her treats.
Eventually, she’ll start to anticipate fun and goodies when she sees you crawling in her direction. Everyone in the family should participate in this exercise. When your baby comes and your dog is completely comfortable with this new game, incorporate the baby into the picture, too. Have him sit on your back, supported by your partner, when you crawl. Remember to cuddle your dog and give her treats so that she continues to enjoy this strange, new human behavior!
Preparing Your Dog for Lifewith a Toddler
Many dogs who haven’t spent time around children find toddlers confusing and intimidating. Some find them downright scary! Read on to learn about what you can do to influence the developing relationship between your dog and your growing child.
Teach Your Child to Respect Your Dog
As your child develops, teach him to respect your dog’s body, safe zones and belongings. Always supervise interactions so that you can guide your child as he learns to communicate and play with your dog appropriately. Playing an active role in the development of a relationship between your child and your dog will benefit everyone.